AMP Foundation fund gives great ideas a chance

Fri, 21 Apr 2023

Breaking down barriers is at the heart of the two special Tomorrow Makers $1 million grants marking the foundation’s 30th anniversary. The gifts – to not-for-profits Global Sisters and First Australians Capital – are all about supporting ideas that can change not just individual lives but society too.

When the AMP Foundation considered how to mark their 30th anniversary, they took a step back and looked over all previous 354 recipients of their flagship Tomorrow Makers grants. Two themes emerged – women-led businesses and the fact that many of the gifts had acted more as seed funding. This guided their choice of recipients this year of two special $1 million awards each, the not-for-profits Global Sisters and First Nations Capital. 

Global Sisters has supported more than 5,500 Australian women on their journeys to increased financial independence and seen more than 1,000 businesses launched. The NFP provides the women with access to a start-to-finish business support including coaching, microfinance, a community of support and access to an online marketplace. The programs are built around flexibility to suit the many demands that women – often single mums on parenting payments – are juggling.  

Late last year, Global Sisters started seeing real impacts – a couple of women were making enough money to come off benefits and another had grown a business with a six-figure turnover. Now the NFP is focusing on systems change and the grant from long-time supporter AMP Foundation will help fund their Single Mothers Demonstration Project, designed to prove their model at scale.  

Breaking down barriers into work for women 

The grant will provide wrap-around support for 300 welfare-dependent single mothers and gather data over three years. The end objective is to provide data that persuades the federal government to make significant changes to the welfare system that enable flexible pathways to employment and self-employment for women.  

Mandy Richards, founder and CEO of Global Sisters, says: “The issue with the welfare system is that it was designed decades ago as a short-term safety net for men, never with single mums in mind. Previous governments have taken a punitive approach too, which has been harsh on single mums who are raising the next generation and it leaves those families particularly vulnerable.  

“There are many barriers into work that the system currently expects single mums to take so women become stuck on social security, it’s quicksand for them. This is entrenching generational poverty, which is the opposite of what was intended with the benefit system. 

“If 300 single mums came off welfare payments, that would conservatively save the government $5 million a year, so it’s a no-brainer in that sense, let alone the economic and social benefits as they participate in the economy and wider community.” 

‘Some women want an extra $50 a week, some want to take over the world’ 

Mandy says that flexibility is key because women are dealing with all sorts of challenging situations, such as recovering from domestic violence, marriage breakdown, or being a carer. Their confidence is often at rock-bottom after years out of the workforce. Global Sisters is also advocating for more accessible financial products for women with varying incomes. 

“Some women may want an extra $50 a week or they may want to take over the world. The work they do with us could be an interim step towards getting a ‘normal’ job, it may be a supplement to part-time or casual work, or it may be their entire income. But what is most important is that they can earn an income from home despite other circumstances,” says Mandy. 

First Australians Capital (FAC) is a national Indigenous-led organisation that builds investment readiness and designs the right capital solutions for Indigenous businesses to thrive. It offers a variety of financial products to enable Indigenous entrepreneurs to grow and scale. The foundation’s relationship with FAC started in 2014 and has supported more than 201 Indigenous businesses across the arts, construction, recreation, retail and professional services sectors. 

Nicola Stokes, AMP Foundation General Manager, says: “We are immensely proud the AMP Foundation is providing grants to First Australians Capital and Global Sisters, two organisations that provide meaningful and lasting change to those they help. 

Great ideas come from lived experience 

“The primary purpose of the Tomorrow Fund is to unearth the extraordinary ideas that we know have social impact. Often those ideas come from people with lived experience of different things, so it provides them with employment, then they could employ others.  

“Often people don’t know how or where to share these ideas and these ideas can change our society. They can bring forward all sorts of positives about who we are. And if you use a social enterprise model, you’re changing the economy at the same time, so the knock-on effects are exciting too,” says Nicola. 

The foundation is launching an initiative called Spark, where people can apply for up to $20,000 seed funding along with a 20-week program of workshops, digital modules and support from industry mentors. The funding is untied so single mums, for example, could use it for babysitting in order to do the modules. 

“Spark is about taking that early idea and developing it into something of substance. AMP Foundation is happy to fund that high-risk end knowing that there’ll be a percentage of failure. We think of our funds as venture philanthropy,” she says. 

Nicola has only been at the AMP Foundation for seven months but says she is lifted by the energy around giving she’s already seen. “Everyone is giving time, effort, energy, money, knowledge, care. I can feel this momentum and powerful drive that comes from a network of people who have a similar goal and way of thinking about how to get there. It’s wonderful, extraordinary. And it’s nice to do something that brings a smile to people’s faces isn’t it?” 

Applications for 2023 Tomorrow Makers grants are currently open